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New Americans Elect Handbook asks Presidential Campaigns to Build AE Personal Information Database. Why?

What is Americans Elect for?

Literal thinking on the subject has it that the purpose of Americans Elect, a 501c4 corporation with hidden funders, is to run the first-ever privately-run online presidential nomination in the history of America. This is, after all, what Americans Elect says it is for:

“The goal of Americans Elect is to nominate a presidential ticket that answers to voters — not the political system.”

But could the Americans Elect have an additional, commercially useful result?

Americans Elect envisions millons of Americans voting by signing up for its system, including personal information required to verify their voting status:

“But more importantly, the Americans Elect ticket will be chosen by millions of registered voters—Democrat, Republican and independent.”

… shall be qualified to be a voting Delegate of Americans Elect, upon submission of the following proof of qualification:

1.1 Voter Identification. Full name as reflected on his or her voter registration; date of birth; residential address including street, apartment number if applicable, city or town, state and zip code that matches the public voter registration address; and such additional publicly available information to verify status…

That would involve collecting highly personal, highly useful information on millions of American swing voters. Hypothetically speaking, there would be quite a bit of commercial resale value in such a dataset, especially because the commercial use of voter registration data gathered by the states is prohibited. An entire industry is based on efforts to collect and sell voter information.

Not at all hypothetically, Americans Elect’s privacy policy states that while, in the present tense, “we do not sell your personal information to third parties,” it may share that information now, it may sell aggregated information now, and it may do all sorts of things in the future for “marketing or analytical purposes” or relating to corporate “sale of assets”:

We and our trusted partners acting on our behalf may use the information we collect from and about you to… send you communications, including information about products, services, and events (offered by us and others) that we think might interest you….

We do not sell your personal information to third parties. We may share your personal information with third parties for a variety of reasons. In addition to sharing your personal information with third parties who provide services to us, we may share your information:

* with third parties responsible for checking your information against voter registration databases
* as required by law and when we believe in good faith that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights or those of third parties, protect your safety or the safety of others, investigate fraud, or comply with a court order or other legal process
* in connection with a corporate change including a merger, acquisition or sale of assets.

In addition, we may share aggregate AmericansElect.org usage information that does not identify individual users with third parties for any reason, including, for example, marketing or analytical purposes.

Americans Elect says its privacy policy can be changed at any time. There are literally millions of privacy policy pages on the Internet declaring point-blank that companies or organizations “will never sell your personal information.” Americans Elect very noticeably does not make this promise.

Also not at all hypothetically, Americans Elect has just released a new Briefing Book for would-be Americans Elect candidates and draft committees in which Americans Elect declares it to be a primary priority of candidates and committees to get more people to share their personal information with Americans Elect:

ENROLL NEW DELEGATES
Declared candidates and Draft Committees will also be actively engaged in bringing new Delegates to the website to record their “support. The challenge and opportunity is to sign up new Delegates because they specifically want to support your candidacy or draft effort. We believe that, ultimately, most of the Delegates will be brought to the website by this method. Registered voters who live in the home state of the declared candidate or draft candidate and know him or her are ripe targets to be enrolled as Delegates….

In all probability, the effort that brings the most new Delegates to the website to sign up will end up with the nomination. This means that building an organizational ground game for enrolling new Delegates will be critical to success. Declared candidates and Draft Committees should consider creating their own websites and social media programs. Media appearances, public speaking, bus tours, and paid advertising (both in the traditional ways and in the new social media) can all be undertaken with the goal of enrolling new Delegates so they can record their “support” for a candidacy and participate in convention voting.

This must be said: I do not know (and since Americans Elect has refused to communicate with me I cannot learn) whether it is Americans Elect’s intention to use its process in order to generate a commercially profitable database of millions of American swing voters. But given the structure of the Americans Elect process, the stated goal of collecting personal information from millions of Americans and the loopholes in the Americans Elect privacy policy, it’s possible. If Americans Elect wants to reassure a reasonably wary American public that it does not intend to create a marketable database of personal information, it should promptly revise its privacy policy to include the words “Americans Elect will never sell your personal information.” Until it does, privacy-aware Americans may find themselves hesitant to participate.

1 comment to New Americans Elect Handbook asks Presidential Campaigns to Build AE Personal Information Database. Why?

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